Vol State (13-6) (4-2) will get a tough test in their conference home opener this weekend. Due to weather concerns the series has shifted to Saturday and Sunday. The Neers will face the #3 ranked team in the country (Perfect Game has them ranked #1) in Walters State (25-3) (6-0) Saturday at 2 pm in the 9 inning game and then two 7 inning games Sunday starting at 12:00 pm. The Senators come in hot, which shouldn't shock anyone, winning 17 straight games as they make the trip to Gallatin, TN. The Neers lost all 3 games in Morristown last year, but did look to have a shot to steal a game down there falling just short in game 2. The Pioneers have cooled off a bit after winning 12 straight including 4 straight conference games. The Neers are certainly eager to get back on the field after a mid-week split with Joliet and losing the series in week two of TCCAA play. Vol State's trip to Dyersburg ended in a bit of disappointment as the Neers were unable to win the series after taking game 1 in what was a very well-played series against the Eagles last weekend. The Pioneers come into this weekend hungry and ready to get back on track as they try to prove that they can play with one of the top teams in the country.
Week 2 Conference Recap:
The Pioneers headed to Dyersburg and looked to be ready to win another conference series after taking game 1 4-3. Sophomore Jacob Cole turned in another impressive performance coasting thru 6 innings giving up only 1 hit while striking out 5. Cole ran into a bit of trouble in the final frame allowing a lead off hit followed by a home run as the Eagles cut the lead to 4-3, but he was able to sit the next 3 guys down to pick up his 4th win and first complete game of the season. In 5 starts this year Cole is 4-0 with a 3.41 ERA. The Neers offensively were able to get some timely hits from sophomore Baylor Steelman who went 2/3 before exiting the game in the bottom of the 5th, which also ended his weekend, after colliding with the CF wall in a courageous attempt to run down a fly ball. Sophomore Brent Richey who seemed to snap out of an early season swoon last weekend provided an RBI single in the 4th followed by an RBI single from sophomore Joe McNamee.
In game 2 the Neers had a few defensive lapses that ended the day early for sophomore James Hatcher. Hatcher threw well, but the defense couldn't give him much support in his 3 innings giving up 4 runs (only 1 earned run) in the first 3 innings. Dyersburg stretched the lead to 7-3 into the 4th inning, but Freshman Jack Sensing was able to keep them at bay the rest of the way. Sensing provided 2.2 innings of scoreless baseball which was a good sign for the bullpen going forward. Offensively, Vol State seemed to get a hot start with a 1 out double in the first from sophomore Matt Brown. The Pioneers got on the board in the 2nd inning as Richey drove a ball over the right center wall to trim an early deficit to 2-1. Freshman Bill Hamilton was 1-1 with a 2B and 2 walks in the game, but there wasn't a whole lot going offensively for the Neers in game 2.
With the series on the line in game 3 the action turned up a notch; both teams played extremely well. Vol State sophomore Chase Douglas was yet again fantastic in his 5th start on the year. Douglas went 6 innings only giving up 3 hits, 2 runs and striking out 8 Eagle hitters. He certainly did enough to give the Neers a chance to take the series in Dyersburg. The Neers got solo home runs from Richey in the 5th and another solo HR from sophomore Jake Lye in the 6th. The Neers couldn't get Douglas much support thru 6 innings as he left a tied 2-2 game after 6 innings for the bullpen to win. Vol State gave up 2 runs in the 7th and 1 in the 8th that had them playing catch up offensively. The offense seemed up to the task as they loaded the bases with nobody out in the 8th. Vol State was only able to scratch 1 run off an RBI sac fly from McNamee and then stranded the bases loaded. The scrappy Neers again threatened in the 9th after a lead off hit by Richey and freshman Zeke Lecomte. Sophomore Judd Sparks laid down a successful sacrifice bunt to move the tying run to 3rd and go ahead run to 2nd with only 1 out. After a strikeout to get 2 outs, the Neers looked to tie the game on an infield hit by Brown, but the umpire saw it differently and the Neers comeback and chance to win a series in Dyersburg came to an end in a 5-4 loss.
Vol State played 2 of the 3 scheduled mid-week games with Joliet this past week gearing up for the big series vs Walters State. Game 1 was canceled on Monday because of rain, but they were able to play a double header on Tuesday. The Neers came out flat and were able to salvage a split in a comeback win in game 1. Freshman Lawson Factor provided the Neers with 4 quality innings in his first start. He ran in to trouble in the 1st inning, but limited the damage to only 1 run after loading the bases with no one out. The 4th inning wasn't kind to Factor mostly due to the defense failing to make a few plays for him and Joliet was able to score 4 unearned runs in the inning. Freshman Jack Sensing was able to hold Joliet scoreless over 2 innings and freshman Dalton Heath added another scoreless frame to pick up a win, his 3rd win of the year as the resilient Neers rallied for 6 runs in the final frame capped off by a walk off grand slam from freshman Bill Hamilton to win 8-5.
Other than the quality start from freshman Collin Loose, who provided 3 and a third quality innings before getting chased in the 3rd after the Neers defensive collapsed in the 4th inning giving up 6 unearned runs, there weren't too many positives for the Neers in game 2. The Neers just couldn't get anything going offensively and dropped the backend of the double header 7-2.